Putting the E Back Into Sex

The E is the emotion I’m talking about, not some…um…other E. Ahem, moving right along, MH is a very sexy line. Lots of opportunities for action. And personally I really like writing a good love scene. I tend to put a lot of sensuality in mine to really build it up. I’ve been told by the ed I write a good one too (blows own trumpet here ’cause someone’s got to!) which is pleasing.
So when I was told the emphasis was too heavy on the sex in the last reject, I was puzzled.
Hey, I thought. Whaddya expect? It was a once night stand, ergo, sex. Anyway, you liked the writing, so what was wrong with it? Too much heat? Or didn’t the one nighter work out? Did they get together too quickly? What? What exactly did you mean by ‘too much emphasis on sex’??

The problem, gentle reader, has only now sunk in. Having borrowed Maisey’s editor decoder ring, I went back over the rejection letter and there it was in black and white – there was no emotion in the scene. What? No emotion? There was plenty! They enjoyed themselves didn’t they? Oh sure, but we’re not just talking pleasure here, we’re talking emotion that is related to the conflict. As Michelle S told me, every scene has to forward the conflict on some level, and that includes the love scenes. So I quickly looked at the rough draft of my Cat/Sean ms to see what I’d done with the love scene. I’d really gone to town with it and it was pretty sexy but sure enough, I’d made the same mistake. No conflict!


Glad I picked that one up huh? So how to put conflict in a love scene? Pretty much the same as you do with every scene. What’s their conflict? How does that come out during love making? What kind of action would the conflict impel them to take and what would the response be and why? So I’ve got a guy who likes control with a woman who threatens it. And a spontaneous, impulsive woman who wants an emotional connection with a guy who is trying to deny it. Don’t know about you, but I can see all sorts of possibilities there… πŸ™‚

Anyway, I think the real reason this has taken a while to sink in for me is that as a writer I am the queen of understatement. I don’t like writing OTT emotional reactions, especially during love scenes. Which is why I didn’t put them in. But, as one of Trish Wylie’s lessons pointed out, you can never be too obvious. So I’m going to have to give up my love of the understated look or the many layered piece of dialoge and just be straight up. And boy are those two going to have emotional stuff going on in their scene – I’m going to wring that baby dry.

But if the ed wants to read it, she’ll have to ask for the full. πŸ˜‰

BTW guys, the old sex without emotion thing was one of the problems the eds mentioned with many of the entries from the last competition. So the lesson is, yes, you can have the sex, but make sure that conflict is front and centre in the scene.

20 thoughts on “Putting the E Back Into Sex”

  1. I have this cool scene/sequel form that I fill out before writing every scene to make sure I put conflict in. However, only today I was wondering how to put conflict into love scenes. You’ve just given me loads of ideas.

    Great post, as usual πŸ™‚

  2. Sounds like a great form, Joanne. Whenever I write a scene I am always asking myself how this forwards the base conflict. It’s great for when I get a bit stuck and don’t know where I’m going. Remember the conflict!
    Glad I have you some ideas re the love scenes. It’s not just about them lying there feeling, it’s also about them taking that feeling and putting it into some sort of action.
    And as far as that goes…mine’s not that kind of blog. πŸ™‚

  3. Great post, Jackie! Do I put emotion in sex? Jeez I have no idea, cos I’ve never stopped to think about it. *sigh*. Might have to borrow my fellow Minx’s sequel form!

  4. A timely post, Jackie, considering the recent conversation we were having!

    As you know, I realized as I was getting Book #2 squared away that I had *gaspshockhorror* FOUR sex scenes in it. What can I say, they got away from me…

    But when I went back through to try and decide which one to take out, I realized that none of them could be removed without me losing what seems, to me, to be a vital moment of connection between them. Each love scene develops their relationship, their emotions further. So this is just my opinion, and if my ed gets back to me with…um, can you have them not in bed at least sometimes?? To which I would respond…they only did it in bed once! But I digress.

    Anyway, for me that was a good gauge. If the scene is superfluous, it’ll lift out. If it’s sex for sex’s sake, then you could easily slash a bunch of graphic text and not be short anything.

  5. Maya – yeah, I never thought about it before either. The ed hadn’t mentioned it in my earlier mss so I also went back and took a look at them. And sure enough, lots of emotion in them because the sex was inextricably linked with the conflict. So now I know the reason why the early scenes worked and why the later ones didn’t.

    Maisey – Lol! Only in bed once… But you’re right. It’s not about the sex per se as much as it’s about the story. That’s a great measure to see whether the love scenes are necessary or not – if they can be deleted without losing any of the story then they’re not necessary.

  6. I struggle with this. The emotion takes a flying leap right out the window at this point. I just can’t get the balance right. It sounds easy… it should be easy right? πŸ˜›

  7. It’s not easy, Lacey. Witness me taking so long to understand what the problem was! I think layering the emotional reactions through the description works. But you kind of have to know what each should be feeling about the other at this point. And that’s what needs to go in.

  8. Another great craft post, Jackie! And here I was wondering what was lacking in the sex scenes I’ve written – thanks for sharing. This sounds extremely difficult. I’m off to study some love scenes in some Mod Heats to see how it’s done πŸ™‚

  9. Coughs.
    You can write a sensual scene without them going to bed together. There is a courtship ritual which all cultures follow so sometimes, multiple sex scenes do not have to go all the way to wring the emotion out. There does come a point where the tension vanishes. And you need that tension.

  10. Angie – like I said to Lacey, it isn’t easy. I do like to see how other authors have done it. If you can see what the base conflict is, it’s interesting to see how the author has incorporated it into the love scene. But there will always be emotion there.

    Michelle – really? They don’t have to go to bed?? Lol! Seriously, that’s indeed true. Often the times when they DON’T go to bed can be the most…um…interesting. πŸ™‚ You’re so right about the tension – no tension and it may as well be the end of the book. It’s the tension that keeps the h&h on their toes and everyone else keep reading.

  11. I once read that a HM&B editor said that writing a M&B was about 3 things – emotion, emotion, emotion. Easy said than done of course – but thanks for the heads up on this – a very informative piece of advice. Only now I gotta do it! Take care. Caroline x

  12. Great post Jackie. This is really difficult though! Okay Joanne, its official, over to your site and blog about your cool scene/sequel form… I now officially need it!

  13. Caroline – yep, the three Es! That was some great advice – up to us to put it in. πŸ™‚

    Sally – indeed, not easy. But I have to say, thinking about the conflict at all times can be a great way to focus things.

  14. Great post (as per ususal).

    You already know that I’ve been giving this some thought of late cause it was one of the many many things listed in my revsions.

    Now that the problem is identified, it seems like it can be fixed, right? I wish. As Sally pointed out – easier said than done. I love what Maisey said about her ms – each scene being a vital moment of connection between the hero & heroine and your thoughts about forwarding the base conflict through emotion.

    Each ‘connection’ should exposes their growing emotional confusion.

    Here we have two people who at the beginning don’t sit up and say “Hi – I love you, let’s have sex and get married.” (These three things might happen, just not in the order presented). At the beginning our hero & herione have no intention of staying together (it may be a one night stand, fling, etc…) so permanence is no where in the picture. But when they have sex, their connection exposes their growing emotional confusion because what they thought they were going to get out of the sex to begin with has now altered and thus feeds into the underyling conflict. It gives out characters depth because we can see them begin to realise that things are not going as planned and we want to see how they deal with this and get to their HEA.

    Maybe this has come through as gibberish – but in my twisted mind, it kind of made sense…kind of…

  15. Janette – that makes sense. They also might want permanence, just not with that particular person. The sex either feeds the underlying conflict, or it strips away another layer, exposing it more. It should never just be there because ‘oh, it’s page 100 and they haven’t had sex yet, let’s put in a love scene’.

    Suzanne – thanks! Yeah, too many things to think about in some ways eh? πŸ˜‰

  16. It’s a problem I have too. It’s easier to write sex without emotion, or emotion without sex. Try putting the two togther – I’m screwed- and not in a good way.

    I read this article yesterday by Melissa James that I’m hoping will help me-


    (Yes, she writes for Sweet Romance now, but she used to write for lines that could included hotter sex- and the article is a good ‘um)

  17. My sex scenes always go on too long. I just love sex!

    Um … that came out wrong. Oh well.

    But yes, making sure the sex advances the plot too, that’s key, isn’t it? And it can be hard to put in emotion without loads of internal monologue cluttering up the sex. I like unusual touches (literally, lol) that indicate emotion and relationship. Ways of making love that demonstrate character.

    Hmm, getting into some odd territory here. Better go do some writing instead …

  18. Jane – Lol! Who doesn’t?? No, I totally get what you’re saying. The way a character makes love can be a great way of showing who they are as a person. And yeah, the sex must advance the relationship or plot in some way otherwise you fall into the dreaded trap of sex just for the sake of it.

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